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Fathers of the Church

Letter CXIX: to Eustathius, Bishop of Sebasteia

Description

Basil speaks of the slanderous charges made against him.

Provenance

St. Basil's correspondence is a copious and invaluable store of information for the history of the Eastern Church in the fourth century, particularly in Cappadocia. Since he never found a real biographer, his letters represent the best source for his life and times, for his many activities and far-reaching influence, especially for his personality and his character. (Quasten)

by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A

I ADDRESS you by the very honourable and reverend brother Petrus, beseeching you now and ever to pray for me, that I may be changed from ways dangerous and to be shunned, and may be made one day worthy of the name of Christ. Though I say nothing, you will converse together about my affairs, and he will give you an exact account of what has taken place. But you admit without due examination, the vile suspicions against me which will probably be raised by men who have insulted me, in violation of the fear of God and the regard of men. I am ashamed to tell you what treatment I have received from the illustrious Basilius, whom I had accepted at the hands of your reverence as a protection for my life. But, when you have heard what our brother has to say, you will know every detail. I do not thus speak to avenge myself upon him, for I pray that it may not be put to his account by the Lord, but in order that your affection to me may remain firm, and because I am afraid lest it be shaken by the monstrous slanders which these men are pretty sure to make up in defence of their fall. Whatever be the charges they adduce, I hope your intelligence will put these enquiries to them. Have they formally accused me? Have they sought for any correction of the error which they bring against me? Have they made their grievance against me plain? As matters are, by their ignoble flight they have made it evident that under the cheerfulness of their countenance, and their counterfeit expressions of affection, they are all the while hiding in their heart an immense depth of guile and of gall. In all this, whether I narrate it or not, your intelligence knows perfectly well what sorrow they have caused me, and what laughter to those who, always expressing their abomination for the pious life in this wretched city, affirm that the pretence of virtue is practised as a mere trick to get credit, a mere assumption to deceive. So in these days no mode of life is now so suspected of vice by people here as the profession of asceticism. Your intelligence will consider what is the best cure for all this.

As to the charges patched up against me by Sophronius, far from being a prelude of blessings, they are a beginning of division and separation, and are likely to lead to even my love growing cold. I implore that by your merciful kindness he may be withheld from his injurious efforts, and that your affection may strive rather to tighten the bonds of what is falling asunder, and not to increase separation by joining with those who are eager for dissent.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF II/VIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.